Jeffrey Magee's excellent new biography of Fletcher Henderson, The Uncrowned King of Swing, notes that the bandleader was famous for delivering extraordinarily exciting live performances — “fiery full-band improvisations which had an ecstatic freedom such as I have heard from no other jazz orchestra,” one critic said. It's difficult to hear anything like this on Henderson’s records, captivating as they often are. Recordings can never be trusted as a total record of the musical past. Another thing that strikes me in Magee's book is the description of Henderson's absurdly strict musical upbringing. His middle-class parents would lock him in the piano room for hours to make him practice; the repertory was entirely classical music and church music. "He is destined to become an eminent authority," a college classmate later wrote, "classed with Rachmaninov and other noted musicians." Then he heard the blues, as personified by Ethel Waters, and his destiny shifted.